Besides being home to the excellent Great Lakes Brewery and one of my favorite pale ales, Burning River, Cleveland is also home to a football team known as the Browns. They haven't been very good in recent years, and they're going through a bit of a facelift on the offensive side of the ball. Here's a quick breakdown on what you need to know about the key players for the Packers' next preseason opponent.
Head Coach: Pat Shurmur
Yes, he is related to the late Packers defensive coordinator, Fritz Shurmur. Pat is his nephew. Pat has an offensive background, working as the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams in the two years prior to being named the Browns' head coach in 2011.
The Browns are led on offense by rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, the team's second first-round pick in this year's draft. The Oklahoma State Cowboy led a prolific offense in college, but is actually a few months older than Aaron Rodgers; he enrolled in college after a stint in minor league baseball. Weeden struggled in his first preseason game, but has been named the team's starter over Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace.
Fellow rookie Trent Richardson will not play in this week's game, as the Alabama running back had knee surgery last week and will miss most if not all of the preseason. The passing game is lacking for weapons, with second-year pro Greg Little and veteran Mohammad Massaquoi as the top targets at wideout. Former Wisconsin Badger Joe Thomas anchors the offensive line from the left side, and the opening series or two should see a premier matchup with Thomas going up against Clay Matthews.
The Browns defense returned to a 4-3 alignment in 2011 after several years of struggling as a 3-4. The strength of the defense is likely in the secondary, where Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown make a solid tandem of starting corners. The linebackers are a solid veteran group, with D'Qwell Jackson manning the middle. He's been slowed by injury this preseason, however, and only recently has been participating in walkthroughs. The defensive line is made up of a promising youngster in Jabaal Sheard, some young tackles in Phil Taylor and John Hughes, and then a number of veteran role players.
The Browns typically have solid special teams, with a return game anchored by specialist Josh Cribbs. He's been a huge field-position weapon, but has yet to really break out as a receiver on offense. Phil Dawson continues to kick for the Browns, as he has for all but three seasons since 1999. Reggie Hodges, of ridiculous fake punt fame, is back punting after missing the 2011 season with a torn Achilles.
There's the admittedly brief scouting report on the Browns. You can check out much more on the Packers' next opponent on their SBNation blog Dawgs By Nature.
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